EU banning palm oil just to protect their own oilseed, local producers say

Danial Dzulkifly
Malaysia Palm Oil Association (MPOA) chief executive Datuk Nageeb Wahab speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Shah Alam January 11, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Disputing the European Union’s (EU) justification to ban palm oil as allegedly due to environmental concerns, Malaysia Palm Oil Association (MPOA) chief executive Datuk Nageeb Wahab said the move is merely to protect Europe’s own oilseed.

Nageeb told Malay Mail in an interview that the hostile campaign and EU’s supposed justification are unwarranted.

“We are more concerned about the reason why they are banning palm oil. We believe it is a very unfair policy,” he said.

“The reason they claim to ban palm oil is on the grounds of environmental issues such as deforestation and even stating that we killed endangered animals such as the orangutan. This is not true and has been over-exaggerated.

“They have a different agenda, so they need these reasons to smear palm oil,” he said, stating further that such reasons are discriminatory in nature.

This follows after the EU had restricted and banned palm oil biofuel by 2030 in the Delegated Regulation Supplementing Directive 2018/2001 of the European Union Renewable Energy Directive II (or the Delegated Act) due to claims of that palm oil production causes excessive deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

Nageeb admitted that such incidences of deforestation and the death of an endangered animals do happen, but stressed that they were isolated incidences and overstated.

Heb said the issue is very political as those with vested interests want to ensure that Europe’s own oilseed, such as rapeseed, sunflower and soy bean, are protected.

“In Europe, rapeseed and sunflower oils are very heavily subsidised, so it is very political and they need to protect these oils because if they open up to palm oil which is much cheaper, then everyone will want to use our palm oil,” he said.

In the EU, agriculture development, including subsidies comes under the Common Agricultural Policy, which saw an overall expenditure of €58.82 billion (RM264.69 billion).

According to statistics released by the European Commission, the major EU oilseed is rapeseed which accounts for 59 per cent of production, followed by sunflower seed and soybeans. 

Nageeb said palm oil critiques will continue to change the angle in which they will discriminate palm oil and has thus successfully create a perception that palm oil production has negatively affected the environment and biodiversity.

“Before this, they had stated that palm oil is very unhealthy, but we have proven them wrong in that context. Now they are going on environmental issues.

“This will never end as will keep changing the goal post,” said Nageeb.

Despite that, he admitted that the discrimination against palm oil also occurs due to lack of awareness on palm oil production.

Taking an example of a recent incident where students of an international school in the Klang Valley, during a school performance, had shown that the cultivating palm oil is tied to deforestation and the death of orangutans, Nageeb said it ties back on how palm oil is not taught to be a well-loved commodity even its own country.

“We should have a school curriculum teaching Malaysian commodities including palm oil.

“Many do not know this, but palm oil is produced seven time more yield per hectare compared to other vegetable oils and it is also a common product used in many household items,” he said.

Nageeb also said that the “no palm oil campaign” that is conducted in supermarkets is ultimately awkward as any supermarket who intends to go ahead with such initiative would have to get rid nearly half of their inventory.